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Center Column Archives
Sat Sep 10 2005 Kevin Pina and Jean Ristil arrested by masked police
9/9/2005: International journalist and Flashpoints Radio correspondent, Kevin Pina, was arrested at about 5:00 PM on Friday. Another journalist, Jean Ristil, was also arrested shortly after he reported on the situation from St. Claire's Church in the Delmas district.
Heavily armed and masked SWAT members of The Police Nationale d'Haiti (PNH) had arrived at Rev. Fr. Gerard Jean-Juste's church to serve a search warrant Friday with a juge d'instruction and juge de paix. The PNH were ostensibly "searching for weapons" at the church where 600 - 800 children are fed. Many children were present when the SWAT police began destroying the rector. Kevin Pina began questioning the government officials as to why they were destroying the church property and was arrested. "You're nothing but a troublemaker! Your friends in California are always causing us trouble ..." claimed the officials as they put Pina under arrest. Reporter Jean Ristil was present during this and was reporting the scene to Marguerite Laurent when he said that he couldn't talk anymore and was also arrested.
Pina and Restil are being held in a small cell with approximately 7 other men. Pina was able to give the following description of events:
"We went to cover the PNH search of Fr. Jean-Juste's church for guns. The police were clearly initmidating the boys in the presbytery. I scaled a wall to enter the compound, but a policeman outside said nothing to stop me from doing so, and I would have stopped had he done so. I also have an open invitation from both Fr. Jean-Juste and the priest who has been conducting the feeding program while Jean-Juste is in prison to come to the church as I please.
"When both Jean and I had scaled the wall the judge of instruction supervising the police operation began screaming at me, saying that I was a foreign terrorist and with Lavalas. He told the police to take my camera, which I would not let them do. I told them that before they did anything else I wanted to see a representative of my embassy. They then handcuffed me and put me in the back of a police car. Now the judge claimed I hit him. I have been covering Haiti since 1989 and I have never raised my hands to anyone in authority, and would never do so."
Read More | Demand Release of Kevin Pina and Jean Ristil | HaitiAction.net | Flashpoints Audio (1.4 mebibytes Mp3) | Flashpoints
Fri Aug 26 2005 Lavalas holds second demonstration in Cap Haïtien
1. the interim government and the election commission must resign 2. all political prisoners must be freed
3. all persecution of people in the poor sections of the country must cease;
4. all political exiles must be called home including President Jean-Bertrand Aristide
5. disarmament must be carried out among every sector of the country, not just in the poor neighborhoods.
If these conditions are met Lavalas would participate in a national reconciliation process with Pres. Aristide as its party chief to proceed to hold fair elections.
Read More | Father Gérard Jean-Juste may run for president
Tue Jul 26 2005 Haitian Priest Beaten and Detained at Funeral
Letter from Haitian National Penitentiary | Haiti prisoner Father Jean-Juste denied medical treatment
Father Jean-Juste was present at the funeral of Haitian journalist Jacques Roche on July 21st. As he entered into the chapel where the body was, he was shouted at, called names such as "assassin," and beaten by people in the crowd. Security officers helped him to leave, as they said, for his safety. He was met by UN police, who brought him to a police station. He was questioned and eventually charged with killing Roche, who had been kidnapped and shot to death. His body had been found just days before. He has been held in isolation ever since, and attorney Bill Quigley, who was detained along with Jean-Juste but allowed to leave later in the day, has not been allowed to visit him. Read more about Father Jean-Juste's detention. On July 25th, Amnesty International declared Gérard Jean-Juste a prisoner of conscience. He is still being held in isolation in the Haitian National Penitentiary.
People who support freedom and democracy in Haiti are being asked to contact the UN and Haitian dignitaries to ask them to release MINUSTAH's prison report immediately, and to resist pressure from the Haitian police to minimize the number of casualties. People are also encouraged to demand Father Jean-Juste's release. Contact info and talking points | Info about more people to contact | 7/25 Update from Bill Quigley | 7/26 action alert by IJDH | 7/27: "Pastor of the Poor"
Look for updates on the Haiti Action Website, Ben Terrall's Haiti Update, and Flashpoints
Report on the 15-city protest against the UN massacre in Cite Soleil | Bay Area writer Ben Terrall is blogging from Haiti
On July 21st, activists across the U.S. and Canada protested to demand an end to UN killings of Haitian civilians.
In San Francisco, people gathered at Powell and Market Streets at 4:00pm and marched to the Brazilian Consulate. Audio | Video: 1 | 2 | 3
There were also pickets at the French Consulate in San Jose at 11:30am and 4:00pm.
On July 6th, more than 300 heavily armed UN troops carried out a full-blown military attack on a densely-populated section of Port-au-Prince. Multiple sources confirm the "peacekeepers" killed at least 23 people. Eyewitnesses reported the UN troops used helicopters, tanks, machine guns and tear gas in the operation. Lt.General Augusto Heleno, the Brazilian commander of UN troops in Haiti, defended the operation as a "success." Among those killed were children, women, and men on their way to work. More info on the Haiti Action Committee website
Bay Area school teacher Seth Donnelly, who was in Haiti as part of a labor/human rights delegation, interviewed Heleno after the massacre. Donnelly reports, "Lieutenant General Augusto Heleno initially challenged us as to why were we concerned about the rights of the 'outlaws,' and not the 'legal force.'" He seemed to write off community testimony as being part of community hostility and part of these "gang attacks" on U.N. forces. The subtext of what he was saying was that the Port-au-Prince community itself was an outlaw community. Democracy Now Report
Haiti Action Committee Statement | ECR interview
Wed May 25 2005 More Charges Of Abuse By Haitian Police
1 | 2 | 3 | 4 ).
Amid mounting evidence that the Haitian police force is spinning out of control, U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan recently stated, "There is an urgent demand for justice in Haiti. I appeal to the transitional government to set the example by promptly initiating an investigation into those human rights violations allegedly committed by national police officers." The U.S.-installed government is ignoring this appeal, like so many before it, as it whips up a new hysteria to justify the abuses of the police. Amnesty International commented in a press release dated April 28; "The use of lethal and indiscriminate violence by the police to disperse and repress demonstrators only serves to increase tension in an already violence-torn country."
The problems of reigning in the abuses of the Haitian police are apparently a source of frustration for some members of the U.N. Civilian Police or CIVPOL. HIP received the following response to an article published May 8 entitled, "U.N. accommodates human rights abuses by police in Haiti." The author asked to remain anonymous fearing reprisal and dismissal, "I read with interest your most recent article "UN Accomodated HR Abuses" with interest. Just want to reinforce your observations as all being accurate. I am one of the U.N. CIVPOL here on the ground in Haiti. As a group we are frustrated by the UN's and CIVPOL's unwillingness to interpret their mandate aggressively. [We] have been pushing them to conduct investigations into all the shootings and other significant Human Rights violations with no success- Unfortunately, I have countless examples. The corruption in the HNP is massive with little interest in addressing the problem. Just keep up the pressure, I don't know what else to do." According to sources close to the mission, a major obstacle to holding the Haitian police accountable is the U.S.-installed interim government and the high command of the HNP. There is also increasing concern over the vetting process for the enrollment of cadets into the police academy with a large number of former members of Haiti's military being inducted into the force .
The purported lack of command authority of the U.N. over the HNP has brought about charges of complicity in the abuses they have committed. Just as the U.N. military forces have been accused of standing by and allowing the HNP to kill unarmed demonstrators, reports have surfaced of CIVPOL members standing by as the HNP tortured and murdered political opponents. These reports do not only concern supporters of Aristide's Lavalas movement, but also members of the former military who challenged the current U.S.-installed regime. According to an anonymous CIVPOL source, "There was a recent a joint operation between CIVPOL and HNP [targeting members of the former military who refused to lay down their arms]. At the end of the first day's operation Ravix [Remissainthes] was only wounded, begging for his life when HNP shot him with CIVPOL present and not intervening or taking any other action. The next day Anthony Jean, alias Grenn Sonnen, was killed in the operation but his second-in-command was only wounded. He was in a separate room where CIVPOL were not present. HNP went into that room and killed this subject as well. While CIVPOL did not directly witness this they were in the next room. Again, no intervention."
Read More | U.N. covers for Haiti's killer cops, threaten American journalist | An Prensip: the subordination of the judiciary in Haiti | Haiti Action
Wed May 11 2005 Sò Anne -- Haitian Folk Singer
Annette Auguste, popularly known as Sò Anne, is among them. Auguste, 63, a folk singer, fierce fighter for democracy and supporter of ousted President Jean-Bertrand Aristide, was arrested May 10, 2004 by U.S. Marines.
One year ago, U.S. Marines, sent to Haiti after a U.S.-backed coup exiled Aristide, used plastic explosives to enter Sò Anne's house in Port-au-Prince. They arrested Sò Anne without a warrant in the middle of the night, two direct violations of the Haitian Constitution. During the arrest they killed her two dogs and cuffed and hooded all members of her family, including four children under the age of 15.
The Marines initially claimed she was stockpiling weapons in her home -- they found none -- and said she was collaborating with local Muslims in a plan to attack U.S. interests in Haiti. Then the authorities claimed she had participated in witchcraft.
One year later, Sò Anne sits in jail awaiting formal charges. Forty-six organizations across the U.S. and Canada are calling for her release. The Haiti Action Committee has put out a call to mothers and grandmothers worldwide to help free Sò Anne.
Since Aristide was exiled, prisons have been filled to overflowing his supporters. Human rights groups estimate that in the National Penitentiary alone there are 1054 prisoners; most of them are loyal to Aristide, or believed loyal to him. Only nine of them have been tried and convicted of crimes.
Thu May 5 2005 Yvon Neptune's Hunger Strike Continues
Update from Brian Concannon
Political prisoner Yvon Neptune, Haiti's last constitutional Prime Minister, lies on the verge of death from a hunger strike, initiated because the de facto Haitian coup government has jailed him for 10 months without formal charges, in violation of Haiti's constitution. The National Coalition for Haitian Rights (NCHR), a widely discredited, USAID funded anti-Aristide group, has accused Neptune of participation in a massacre in the city of St. Marc in February 2004, but the illegal coup government has never offered any proof the massacre actually took place, and U.N. independent expert on human rights Louis Joinet recently dismissed accounts of the massacre.
Neptune has vowed to continue his hunger strike until he is either charged or released. The illegal "interim" regime of Gerard Latortue could easily meet this demand, but refuses. They should therefore concede they have no real case against Neptune and release him from prison. If Neptune is flown into exile, he wants the world to know, it was a kidnapping.
The Insitute for Justice and Democracy in Haiti is asking that people pressure the Interim Government of Haiti to drop the charges against Neptune.
Read More | Democracy Now Report | Green Left Weekly | Haiti Progres | Letter From Neptune On Hunger Strike | Institute for Justice and Democracy in Haiti